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The best and worst of The Mandalorian season 1

How the Disney Plus surprised Star Wars fans in the lead up to Rise of Skywalker

The Mandalorian and IG-11 shoot blasters in every direction in a shadowy fiery piece of concept art Image: Nick Gindraux/Lucasfilm Ltd.

The first season of The Mandalorian on Disney Plus renewed the Star Wars franchise as a source of quality water-cooler conversation. Whether it was sharing our love for Baby Yoda or debating the identity of the mysterious figure at the end of episode 5, there was an awful lot to pore over.

But, some episodes were more worthy than others. To aid in your viewing — and reviewing — of the entire eight-episode arc before season 2 lands in fall 2020, here is Polygon’s official ranking of the series best moments and biggest mistakes. We have spoken.

8. Chapter 5: The Gunslinger (full review)

Mando and Toro Calican discuss how to take on a bounty in episode 5 of The Mandalorian
Chapter 5: The Gunslinger
Image: Disney

While The Mandalorian has plenty of fan service moments sprinkled throughout the series, no episode was more shameless than “The Gunslinger.” After returning to Tatooine, our hero literally steps foot in the famous cantina of yore. But even a force-feeding of nostalgia wasn’t the episode’s major problem.

Burgeoning bounty hunter, Toro Calican (Jake Cannavale), tries to pull off Han Solo swagger, but ends up sounding like a dumbass. Granted, he’s supposed to be a screw-up, but his performance is stiff, like he was pulled off the street the day they started shooting and told he was going to be in a Star War. It’s reminiscent of the wooden performances that made the Prequel Trilogy era such a slog.

Spaceport engineer Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris) also reeks of hammy Prequel vibes, trying to chew up scenes as a comic relief, but the script gives her very little to work with beyond some broad pit droid gags.

You’re probably best skipping right to the end of this one to catch a “mysterious” cameo. Otherwise you’re liable to suffer some Attack of the Clones flashbacks. — Russ Frushtick

Best moment: Seeing the legs of someone who probably just crawled out of a Sarlacc pit.

7. Chapter 4: Sanctuary (full review)

An imperial AT-ST projects a spotlight at a group of villages. Red glare glows off it as its main laser canon fires away. Dog-faced men stream out from below its feet to attack.
Chapter 4: Sanctuary
Image: Lucasfilm

With cowboy and samurai influences worn as proudly as a mythosaur insignia, it’s not surprising that The Mandalorian staged its own version of Magnificent Seven/Seven Samurai early on in season 1. But the tropes were a little too familiar: riding the hammy connection between the Mandalorian and the leader of a remote village protecting her people from invading Imperial troops, “Sanctuary” played out exactly how audiences well-versed in genre tales would expect. There were rousing speeches, emotional pleas, and battle preparations intercut with Baby Yoda drinking soup.

It’s Star Wars paint-by-numbers, and while the final fight against the AT-ST is a blast, it doesn’t challenge the Mandalorian — physically or ideologically — enough to stick. — Matt Patches

Best moment: The introduction of Cara Dune, who beats the beskar out of our hero in a fistfight worthy of actress Gina Carano.

6. Chapter 7: The Reckoning (full review)

Toro Calican (Jake Cannavale) and The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) take cover behind a sand dune, pinned down by sniper fire.
Chapter 7: The Reckoning
Image: Lucasfilm

The first season of The Mandalorian was like two separate shows: An episodic adventure where Mando and Baby Yoda visited a new planet each week, and a serialized tale about saving The Child from the dangerous remnants of the Empire. “Chapter 7” had to connect those two stories. The episode was just boring legwork — but it made Chapter 8 truly great (more on that later).

Mando assembling his team, after six episodes of meeting people who we assumed would never show up again, was a fun surprise. Who doesn’t love a nice “putting together a crew” sequence? But when the fighting starts at the end of the episode, things fall apart. From the very first blaster shot, we know that there’s another episode on the way and not even kidnapping Baby Yoda can give this fight emotional stakes. — Austen Goslin

Best moment: Carl Weathers crying that Baby Yoda is trying to eat him. The single funniest thing in the entire first season.

5. Chapter 6: The Prisoner (full review)

The Mandalorian and a crew of mercenaries steps aboard a white-walled New Republic prison ship, guns at the ready.
Chapter 6: The Prisoner
Image: Lucasfilm

While our editor Matt Patches tends to really enjoy his Westerns — space or otherwise — I’ve got my own entertainment vice: old war movies. Put Tora! Tora! Tora! or Bridge Over The River Kwai on, even half-way through or close to the end, and I’m a happy man. In fact, one of my favorite old TV shows is from 1962. It’s called Combat!, a World War II serial with five seasons and a total of 152 episodes. I could watch it forever.

I’d love to see The Mandalorian run that long, and that’s why I love “The Prisoner.”

The sixth chapter proves that there are many, many different stories left to tell in the Star Wars universe. Each of its colorful characters — the burly Devaronian, the pair of wiley Twi’leks, and the human smugglers who support them — could easily carry a few episodes on their own. I hope that folks like Jon Favreau, Taika Waititi, Rick Famuyiwa, and Bryce Dallas Howard get plenty of opportunity to make more for many years to come. — Charlie Hall

Best moment: The very end. That’s when we learn that, instead of a vengeful killing spree, Din Djarin has locked the scoundrels away. Not only does it show the depth of his humanity, it puts these characters into hibernation for when fans get to meet them, learn more about their stories, and fall in love with them once more.

4. Chapter 1: The Bounty (full review)

The Mandalorian and Baby Yoda touch hands, silhouetted by bright light from a door in the far wall. IG-11 lies dead on the ground. Image: Lucasfilm

Shared media experiences are vanishingly few and far between these days. With platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime dropping entire seasons from orbit, even the most casual watercooler conversations can be fraught with peril. But, it feels like everyone discovered Baby Yoda together over the same shared week. It was a moment of true Disney magic in a galaxy far, far away.

The entire episode is impeccably well-crafted, with timing and pacing and big reveals. Werner Herzog, who almost casually sets the tone for the entire seven-episode arc that follows, is a revelation. While the premiere is eventually upstaged by later entries with better action sequences and more meaningful consequences, “Chapter 1” is the perfect place to start. — CH

Best moment: There’s a fraction of a second, just before the camera turns to face The Child for the first time, where you can barely make out the silhouette of his wide-eared head. I gasped, a moment before anyone else in the room who was watching with me. It’s a tell only those who grew up with Star Wars are likely to see, and it feels like a wink between the superfans behind the camera and those in front of the screen for the first time.

3. Chapter 3: The Sin (full review)

The Mandalorian takes cover as his breaching charge caves in the wall of The Client’s compound.
Chapter 3: The Sin
Image: Lucasfilm

“Chapter 3” is a testament to how much drama can fit in half an hour when the writers know the universe. Mando says goodbye to Nick Nolte’s Kuiil, bonds with Baby Yoda, gives him away, has a fight with his fellow Mandalorians, has a change of heart, saves Baby Yoda, and escapes in a massive gunfight all in about 30 minutes. It’s impressive pacing and made for one of the series’ most exciting episodes.

But more importantly, it’s proof that The Mandalorian can do more than show off new planets and fight mudhorns. Mando’s emotional turn toward caring about The Child, no matter what the risks, digs deeper than Just Another Pulpy Star Wars Adventure. Also the moment he hands the little silver ball from his ship to Baby Yoda, it made sure that we were all firmly on Mando’s side, because we knew that from then on he was going to protect Baby Yoda. Or at least try to, he’s ... not the most seasoned parent. — AG

Best moment: The Mandalorians revealing themselves to save Mando and Baby Yoda. We’ve seen teams of Mandalorians fight together before in animated series, but this was the first time we’ve seen the armor-wearing warriors in live action and looking this tough.

2. Chapter 2: The Child (full review)

Baby Yoda eats a frog in episode 2 of The Mandalorian
Chapter 2: The Child
Image: Disney

The first episode of The Mandalorian made people cautiously optimistic, but “Chapter 2” turned it into a phenomenon. With the standard introductions out of the way in the pilot, Chapter 2 was free to luxuriate in the universe and give us the first real insight into what makes Baby Yoda tick.

“The Child” is noteworthy for having nearly no dialogue. Mando’s ship is stripped for parts, he goes on a Jawa-killing rampage, and then settles on diplomacy. His quest for The Egg features some of the most striking (and memeable) moments of the series: Baby Yoda cruising around in his half-shell, Baby Yoda using the force for the first time, and of course Baby Yoda chugging an entire frog.

The episode drips with quiet confidence, striking a perfect balance between its ultra-serious and goofball tones – thus mirroring its two main characters. It was the episode that made us all fall in love with Baby Yoda and we were never the same again. — RF

Best moment: Baby Yoda eating an entire fucking frog.

1. Chapter 8: Redemption

The Armorer spot-welding the Mandalorian’s signet to his right pauldron. Image: Lucasfilm

The final episode of The Mandalorian’s first season has it all: a badass nurse droid spinning like a top on a speeder bike (with Baby Yoda giggling all the way); Jason Sudeikis as a detestable Scout Trooper, channeling the classic Star Wars-Cops mashup spoof, Troops; a peek at Din Djarin’s handsome-but-bloodied face; and Moff Gideon emerging slightly perturbed from his downed TIE Fighter with a humming darksaber in hand, which leaves us with some big questions going into season 2.

And IG-11’s final sacrifice, played for laughs in “Chapter 1,” is surprisingly touching in the finale.

“Redemption” was a satisfying send-off to The Mandalorian. It pays off the mudhorn battle, when Djarin finally accepts his sigil. We learn in no uncertain terms why he justifiably doesn’t vibe with droids, but strictly honors the Creed. And Mando’s “I gotta get me one of those” wish comes true, when the Armorer gifts him a jetpack.

“Chapter 8” was rich with payoffs, while also offering unexpected insight into Djarin’s equally guarded compatriots Cara Dune and Greef Karga. That’s delivered through an important revelation about Moff Gideon too: He knows things about our heroes. And in The Mandalorian’s post-Imperial world, when secrecy and privacy are as valuable as Beskar, that understandably makes them uneasy.

Our heroes feel a bit too overconfident after cleaning up Navarro, but that leaves us in a good spot for next season, which teases perhaps the most tantalizing revelations of them all. — Michael McWhertor

Best moment: The episode’s cold open, which has two scout troopers shooting the shit as they fuss over Baby Yoda, is hilarious. It goes on seemingly forever, but it never drags thanks to the impeccable timing of comedians Jason Sudeikis and Adam Pally, who are living their best lives underneath some well-worn white armor.

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